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Hunger and the American Rescue Plan Act

June 15, 2021  |  Article

 

Brian Lash, Managing Partner and CEO

With hunger on the rise in America, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) gives many a reason for hope. How does the bill address hunger and food insecurity specifically?



FOOD INSECURITY AT A GLANCE

While much of the world recovers from COVID-19, the pandemic's long-term effects on the social determinants are only beginning to reveal themselves. Perhaps none of these are more apparent, nor more pernicious, than the increase in food insecurity among people everywhere.

Feeding America estimates that 42 million Americans could experience food insecurity from the pandemic.1 To make matters worse, these effects are most pronounced among low income and minority groups that already face health disparity. To illustrate, a recent study from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) found that Black and Latino individuals were more than twice as likely as Caucasians to report that their households did not have enough to eat in the past 7 days.2

Food insecurity is strongly linked to negative health outcomes, from greater incidence of chronic conditions to lower medication adherence. This, coupled with the fact that food insecurity disproportionately affects low income and minority families, means that executive action was imperative.

CHILDREN AND HUNGER

While much conversation around the social determinants concerns adults, children are often affected to a greater degree. According to the CBPP, “Studies link food insecurity among children with reduced intake of some key nutrients, health problems such as iron deficiency (which is linked with long-term neurological damage) and behavioral issues and mental health conditions.” The CBPP continues, “…[these] can have negative impacts on children’s educational attainment and economic well-being.”2

HOW IS ARPA COMBATTING FOOD INSECURITY IN AMERICA?

Public health policy and legislation is a necessary condition for systemic healthcare change to occur. To that end the American Rescue Plan Act represents an important step toward curbing hunger in America.

Among its many provisions, ARPA includes an estimated $12 billion in investment to address food insecurity specifically.2 One of its primary mechanisms is the P-EBT program which targets child hunger by giving families food dollars to use for groceries when schools are closed. Another mechanism is the SNAP benefit extension which increases the benefit 15% (or roughly $28 per individual per month) through September 2021.4 These programs combine to represent 75% of the bill’s hunger allocation.

THE ROAD AHEAD

There is much work to be done to improve hunger and food security – work that spans public health, healthcare organizations, medical professionals and community health centers to name a few. While the American Rescue Plan Act is only a single piece of this work, it represents an important next step toward directly improving the situation for those most affected.

REFERENCES

1 Feeding America (2021) Hunger in America. Retrieved from https://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/food-insecurity

2 Keith-Jennings, B, Nchako, C, Llobrera, J (2021, April 27) Number of Families Struggling to Afford Food Rose Steeply in Pandemic and Remains High, Especially Among Children and Households of Color. Retrieved from https://www.cbpp.org/research/food-assistance/number-of-families-struggling-to-afford-food-rose-steeply-in-pandemic-and

3 U.S. Department of Agriculture (2021, March 22) ARP National Factsheet. Retrieved From https://www.fns.usda.gov/american-rescue-plan-fact-sheet

4 White House Briefing Room (2021, January 20) COVID-19 President Biden Announces American Rescue Plan. Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/legislation/2021/01/20/president-biden-announces-american-rescue-plan/

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